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4.3 out of 5 stars
Dubliners (Penguin Modern Classics)
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
It may be a staple of school English literature classes but in the case of 'The Dubliners' classic status is well deserved. I find it incredible that such a collection took Joyce so many years to get published, although upon further consideration the implied sexual perversion of 'An Encounter' and the criticisms of Irish culture, materialism and the Church may not have placed it high on an Edwardian publisher's 'to do' list.
Joyce's penetrating and unsentimental portrayal of Dublin, as told through the experiences of a wide cross-section of its inhabitants, is what makes this book great. It is an example of realism at it's most breathtakingly evocative. Eveline and Little Chandler perfectly sum up the complaceny of a city that has the vague desire but not the motivation or guts to change. Mrs Mooney, Corley and Lenehan embody the ruthless selfishness that facilitated the city's descent into immorality and 'Ivy Day in the Committee Room' and 'A Mother' portray perfectly the political stagnancy and shallowness of the cultural revival that characterised the political situation of the time.
I could go on and on but the point is clear. 'The Dubliners' is as perfect an example of gripping literary portraiture as ever there was, surely one of the greatest books ever written. The harsh realism in every story will leave a potent aftertaste in your mouth and a vivid sense of character and location. My personal favourites are the cold self-isolation of 'A Painful Case' and the truly epic 'The Dead.' The lyrical closing section of the book alone more than justifies the cover price. If you read this book in school or university, dig it up and read it again now. If you haven't yet had the pleasure, buy it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
`Dubliners' is a collection of short stories by James Joyce and whilst they are often overlooked in place of `Ulysses' and other of his works, they are most definitely worth a look. The stories don't tend to have any strong plot or final resolution, but instead are wonderful character studies of the inhabitants of Dublin. The book follows a vague pattern of the journey of life. The early stories being about childhood, the middle stories about adolescence and young adulthood and the latter stories about middle age and briefly touch upon death. So where each story is separate from each other, they also are linked together in a coherent thread. Each story also provides a snapshot into a certain characters life and although they have no strong overarching storyline (I.e. a start, middle and an end), the language is so rich and descriptive this doesn't feel like a negative element to the book. I especially enjoyed the dialogue in the stories and it feels entirely natural and draws you in, whereas it can feel forced and actually stalls the text in other books I've read. Joyce is obviously masterful in this aspect of story writing. Although some of the themes can feel a little bleak at times the stories are so well written it is actually a joy to read rather than being in any way depressing. Overall I enjoyed this way more than I thought I would and if you are even briefly considering reading it I would heartily recommend it. I now understand a little more why James Joyce is deemed such an important and classic author.

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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 12 September 2014
This is my third reading of Dubliners and have greatly enjoyed getting to know it again. I first read it for A Level English 32 years ago. I enjoyed it at the time but coming back to it again (it's up for discussion in a book group), I now realise how little I really understood or appreciated its qualities. I borrowed a copy from the library in August and read it and then purchased a copy and read it for the fourth time.

Dubliners is 15 short stories set in early 20th Century Dublin. At the time, all of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom so it had the same status as say, Edinburgh or Cardiff. The majority population of Dublin and the non Ulster counties of Ireland was predominantly Roman Catholic while the power and wealth was mainly Protestant (Church of England). Ireland was poorer than the rest of the United Kingdom and with all this background, it was a period of burgeoning Irish Nationalism.

The stories in Dubliners concern the experiences of Catholic Dubliners and nearly every story seems to create an atmosphere of desperation, disappointment and isolation. The characters are schoolboys, clerks, shop girls and maids and ne'er-do-wells trying to make their ways in an often hostile world where the good fortune belongs to the alien English protestant culture.

The stories are often very short but the final one "The Dead" is a kind of novella. Often the stories are essentially snapshots into people's lives but the cumulative effect of the 15 stories is a very rich picture. Joyce piles so much incidental detail that buld up each scene and yet is also amazing subtle and understated, leaving the readers to make their own minds about what is happening.

The great thing about the book I purchased (the Penguin Modern Classics edition) is the very detailed notes. This gives a very clear picture of Dublin's geography (especially the minute class differences between each suburb and district of the city), history and the significance of religious observances (both Catholic and Protestant).

One thing I never appreciated the first time I read Dubliners was the importance of music (odd considering that I later studied for a degree in music at University) in most of the stories. I am glad that I had Terence Browne's note to refer to and also Youtube so I could hear the songs that are referred to in the stories.

Awesome read.
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This is a collection of 15 short stories set in Dublin before the First World War. It is generally considered to be the most "accessible" of Joyce's major works, in that there are no long rambling stream-of-consciousness passages for which Joyce is so well known. I had previously read two other major works of his: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Wordsworth Classics) and Ulysses (Classics) (Wordsworth Classics).Finnegans Wake (Oxford World's Classics) still awaits the necessary courage. Overall, I found the quality of the stories in this collection uneven; some were brilliant, and avant-garde, certainly for the time period; others seemed far more pedestrian, and I kept wondering: did I miss something here?

It is Ireland, so there should be no surprise that both the Catholic Church and alcohol are themes which are woven through most of the stories. Given this "connective tissue," there is a vast range of character types and issues related to the human dilemma that are the subjects of these 15 stories. The first story, "The Sisters," deals with the topic of death, as seen from the perspective of a young boy. The death is of his mentor, a good priest, Father Flynn. Somewhat ironically, from today's perspective, the second story involves the encounter, as the story is so entitled, of two young boys, who have skipped school, with a pederast (who is not a priest!) There are several incisive stories whose subject is women, and their dilemmas, particular in regards to men. One has an abusive father, and has the opportunity to run off with a man to the Argentine. Should she take it? Another involves a "tart" - to use that English expression - and her relationship with a man residing in their boarding house who is twice her age. As there is a stereotypical "Jewish mother," she certainly seems to have her counterpart in an "Irish mother." A couple of stories address the dominant mother (still!) making the choices of life for their adult children.

An Ireland being Ireland, it should be no surprise that Joyce has a couple of stories which deal with their relationship with the English, as well as the grinding poverty that led so many of them to flee to America. One story features the apparently successful newspaperman who made it big in London, and returning for a home visit, seeing an old friend who settled for a more humdrum married existence, and concludes that one cannot make it "big" in Dublin: you have to emigrate. Another story involves all the machinations involved in electioneering - including, of course, alcohol, and the obligatory praise to the Irish (protestant!) patriot, Charles Stewart Parnell.

By far, I felt that the best story was the last, and longest, at 50 pages, entitled "The Dead." The context is a traditional party held in winter, by two women, now in their 60's. Their nephew, Gabriel, is the protagonist. And it features that vast gulf of misunderstanding that so often occurs in marriages.

In judging this work as a collection of stories, I thought of Hemingway's The Snows Of Kilimanjaro And Other Stories. Hemingway had a couple of brilliant stories, including the one which gave the title to the collection, but numerous ones that fell flat. Although not quite as "flat" as the ones in Hemingway's collection, I felt that "After the Race," "Counterpart," and "Araby" all negatively weighed down this selection. And perhaps I am now "spoiled" by Alice Munro, but I felt that only the last story, "The Dead," achieved her insight. And finally, compared to the other works of Joyce that I have read, this one is the weakest. 4-stars.
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I was not quite sure what to make of this. I picked it up while waiting for another book to arrive. I remember reading `A portrait of the artist` at college and was not mature enough for it then and so was not without trepidation with `Dubliners`. It is a fairly short book made up of about twenty short stories. Some of these are very short and I felt the story had no time to grow into anything before it had already been cut short. By far the best was the last and longest story - well, the final scene is quite breathtaking. Joyce has a very keen sense of the visceral as any fans of his will tell you. I am tempted to look at Ulysses now although I will try and pick an opportune moment, or two! to do it. I call Joyce the arch-melancholic. He can convey feelings of abject desparation or misery but there is also a very occasional inclusion of humour...`Mr Alleyne, a little man wearing gold-rimmed glasses on a clean-shaven face, shot his head up over a pile of documents. The head itself was so pink and hairless it seemed like a large egg reposing on the papers.` ... and ...`She respected her husband in the same way as she respected the General Post Office, as something large, secure, and fixed.`...and... ` After three weeks, (of marriage) she had found a wife`s life irksome and, later on, when she was beginning to find it unbearable, she had become a mother.` yes, I think it is fair to say that Joyce does come up with some great material. Personally I think I prefer novels rather than short stories, but for the reader new to Joyce,`Dubliners` is probably a good place to start.
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This is James Joyce's first major work and it's a shame that we can't go back in time and experience it as the revelation it was. We are well used to this kind of writing nowadays, but it would take a rare sensibility to appreciate its impact on the reading public from the perspective of today.

There are some stylistic points one could make. In some stories they form a kind of pattern, for instance, in those where everyone introduced has a paragraph which describes him or her. Sometimes these are helpful, but sometimes it seems they are there by rote. The form the stories most often take is epiphanical - small vignettes that illuminate something from the dark surrounds of the Dublin streets; nothing much happens in them: a clerk seethes under the yoke of his job, copying out legal documents and sneaks out for a drink, only to be detected and lose his job. A man falls in the street and friends take him home; he's married to a Catholic and all his friends are Catholics, but he resists a plan for them to take him on retreat; in one story I was shocked by a predatory plan made by two men to cajole a young housemaid to give them money, which she cannot really afford. The stories progress with protagonists from youth to maturity, each one with a sharp realism at their heart.

It's the last story here, The Dead, that really makes a strong impact. It's a gathering of friends and relatives of long-standing acquaintance. One of whom, Gabriel, is prevailed upon to give a speech. There will be dancing and music and a renowned, if elderly, soprano will sing. Gabriel sees death in this old lady's face, though her voice is as strong as ever. Later he looks at his wife as she halts on a staircase as a tenor sings an old song. He feels such love for her, but when they are home she tells him what the song meant for her, something a previous young lover had sang to her before she met her husband. This young lover died, and Gabriel sees beyond his own selfish concerns to the sadness of the loss of young life. There is a strength of feeling in this last story that is only peripheral to many of the other stories, which I sometimes found a chore to finish, but it's worth reading the final story whatever else you manage.
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on 1 December 2013
I needed this book for part of a module I was studying for an OU English Literature degree, and this version of the book was part of the set text. This version of the book has an introduction that explains more about the background to the stories and about the author himself, both of which helped to put the stories into context.

Many of these stories, set in Dublin, deal with poverty and social inertia in the early twentieth century; the social inertia and some of the causes for it is illustrated especially in 'The Boarding House' and 'Eveline'. Some deal with the way people use each other, again driven by inertia and desperation as in 'Two Gallants' or just out of greed as in 'After the Race'. There is both the unlovely face of humanity such as the man in 'An Encounter', and nostalgia in 'The Dead'. All is related in rich detail peppered with vernacular, Joyce showing an intimate knowledge of Dublin at the time even though by the time 'Dubliners' was written he no longer lived there. As social commentary on a certain time and place from a certain perspective, 'Dubliners' has passed into classical literature with it's mixture of bleakness and nostalgia for a time of depression in Ireland's history.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
#1 HALL OF FAMEon 24 December 2001
'Dubliners' is probably the best collection of short-stories ever (though 'Men Without Women' by Hemingway and everything by Raymond Carver ought to be acknowledged). It took Joyce years to compose (& perfect) and is a complete universe in itself. Every story is fantastic and individual- though next to each other stands a perfect world. 'Eveline' & 'The Sisters' are among my favourites- but this work should be read for 'The Dead' alone. This, the longest of the stories here is the most perfect and sets the tone for the books Joyce would write subsequently (readers will find 'A Portrait...' the best one to read after this, then 'Ulysses'. Like most I haven't read 'The Wake'). This edition is the best I have found- with wonderful notes & introduction by Terence Brown (though the sleeve quote by retro-critic Tom Paulin is needless- anyone who says things like "prose is a dead form" really ought to be slapped round the head with a copy of 'The Name of the World' by Denis Johnson!). For those studying Joyce there are helpful appendices & notes for the tales- appendix II is especially helpful for 'Ulysses' showing where 'Dubliners' characters & references recur in that great, maddening tome. The notes at the end of this edition are extremely helpful- though I would advise you read each story first WITHOUT their aid to get the best out of this text. This edition is superb- and has a top cover to boot! This, unlike much of Joyce's complex later work, is a book that anyone can read and therefore is a book for everybody.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
This is the first of Joyce's works, and the most accessible. A series of short stories written about the citizens of Dublin going about their daily business, from a woman working in a laundry house to the experiences of a man going to his aunt's Christmas party, he takes the ordinary and somehow infuses it with a sense of sacredness and spirituality that are uniquely Joycean.

These stories are like snapshots in time. We drop in to the person's world and get access to their thoughts and experiences, but there is no omniscient narrator to explain things or underline stuff. We are there, and then we aren't. We make of his pictures what we will. The writing is highly evocative and full of the sights and smells of the time. Joyce never shies away from the repellent aspects of human nature, the dirt, the grime, the questionable sexuality, the hypocrisy of religion, and yet he butts it up against decency, sacrifice, honour and love.

It is raw, visceral writing and an excellent way to introduce yourself to what is to come, a reader for the monstrous Ulysses and a forerunner to The Portrait of the Artist. Necessary for anyone interested in understanding Joyce and getting a handle on his work.
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on 5 March 2015
When one whips through the pages of Oscar Wilde you feel at the knees of a man who not only has extraordinary prose but something extraordinary to say. When one whips through the pages of Joyces Dubliners you must marvel at his prose, his eloquence with and ability to describe scenarios in a manner which many writers fail. Joyce is a great writer. But is he a great novelist?

I am certain if one was to studiously delve into the innards of Ulysses one could discover all the hidden meanings not meant to be understood by the general public. Perhaps there are hidden meanings in the poverty of the Dubliners described but they don't seem to jump off the page with moral implications as Wilde conveys. The book is simply a nice little collation of the comings and goings of general citizens in a multitude of short stories.

An easily readable book that serves as being a nice introduction in the literary style of Joyce. A must read? No.
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